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Nonprofit founded by Virginia teen Sajni Vederey donates $50,000 to kids in India

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Sajni Vederey
Sajni Vederey

STEM All Stars, launched by the 16-year-old Indian American, has so far raised $200,000 and impacted more than 15,000 girls worldwide.

A nonprofit founded by an Indian American high school student has made a donation of $50,000 to underprivileged kids in India.

STEM All Stars, launched by Sajni Vederey, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA, invested $50,000 in digital boards, computers and the construction of a new library for children in rural India.

The nonprofit  donated 25 digital boards and 100 computers to 21 underprivileged schools. Most of these schools (19) are in the state of Andhra Pradesh, One school is in the neighboring Telengana, and one is in Kerala, another southern state.

The organization also broke ground this spring on the construction of a new library in the village of Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh. It will stock the library with books in the fields of computer science, math, biology and other fields.

Vederey was in India from March 29 to April 1 to facilitate delivery of the donations and the construction of the new library.

The mission of STEM All Stars is to raise awareness about science, technology, engineering and math subjects, and empower girls around the world to pursue careers in these areas.

“As a girl, learning the magic of science, technology and math empowered me to dream big,” Vederey, 16, said in a press release. “It’s important for children to learn how to use emerging technologies, such as computers, phones and tablets. STEM All Stars believes that it is paramount for girls to receive STEM education to succeed in society.”

Last December, STEM All Stars received a grant of $50,000 from Vetukuri Venkata Siva Rama Raju, a lawmaker from Andhra Pradesh, who donated the amount through a grant in the Corporate Social Responsibility program.

Raju, a lawmaker from the Telugu Desam Party, the party in power in Andhra Pradesh, is also a member of the board of directors of STEM All Stars. He is a director of VEM Technologies Private Limited, a company that does assembly and systems integration for defense and aerospace systems.

“STEM All Stars is deeply grateful to the important support we have received from Mr. Siva Rama Raju,” Vederey said. “We will be able to directly invest in the futures of young children in Andhra Pradesh by strengthening the curriculum of the schools with more STEM education.”

The teenager said, while growing up as a first-generation Indian American in the United States, she noticed gender stereotypes, such as the notion, “Girls are bad at math,” or “Girls are bad at engineering.”

Vederey’s mother Sridevi told The American Bazaar that her daughter started thinking of setting up a nonprofit while she still in middle school. During a trip to Hyderabad, in 2015, Sajni visited a school near her grandmother’s home. She saw first hand lack of resources that is crippling the academic growth of students  there. “She saw that there was nothing in the school — no amenities,” Sridevi, who was born in Hyderabad, said.

Sajni volunteered at the school to learn more about the educational ecosystem there, and what she saw was an eyeopener.

Teenager Sajni Vederey
Teenager Sajni Vederey addressing students at a school in India.

“The number of students who did not know about Google was shocking,” said Vederey. She founded the nonprofit upon her return from India, in August 2015.

Vederey said she understood that children develop a sense of gender identity at an early age, so she decided to start a nonprofit to introduce STEM to children and break stereotypes about girls and STEM.

In less than three years, STEM All Stars has raised a total of $200,000, and impacted more than 15,000 girls worldwide. It provided supplies, books, computers, science lab equipment and digital boards to about 55 schools in India.

The organization has hosted a number of events, including annual galas in the United States, public awareness events and STEM competitions.

Vederey, who wants to be a lawyer, has authored a book, Roo and His New Habitat, a fictional work that about a group of students who builds a home for their new classroom pet bunny using STEM skills. The book, which she wrote while in 9th grade, is available on Amazon.

Her Amazon author bio states that Vederey, who is “extremely passionate about literature and poetry,” started writing stories at the age of 6.

Born in Dallas, Texas, to parents who emigrated from India, Vederey moved to the Washington, DC, area after finishing kindergarten. Her father Jaganmohan Reddy Vederey works for the US Navy in Crystal City, and mother Sridevi is a homemaker.

Sajni has a younger brother, Sahaj, who also attends Thomas Jefferson.

The Vedereys live Great Falls, Virginia.

(This post has been updated.)

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